Love is a Marathon: Celine and Jesse Forever

Posted by Erik Luers on 12.12.2013

What better way to ring in the New Year than with best friends? A cinematic event 18 years in the making, "Celine and Jesse Forever," a series featuring all three entries in Richard Linklater’s much beloved Before trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight), will have a week long run here at the Film Society beginning Friday, January 3. Since we fancy ourselves completists, Waking Life, Linklater’s 2001 film also featuring Before’s two love-stricken leads, will also screen.

One of the great modern romances of our time, Linklater’s series of films have touched the hearts of filmgoers worldwide, consistently enamored with the passion and heartache shared by the series’ two main characters, Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke). The specificity of the dialogue and the profoundly detailed performances have granted the films remarkable staying power. Meeting randomly on a train in 1995, Celine and Jesse, two youthful tourists, decide to hop off and spend the day together on a whim. The two hit it off, indulge in thoughtful and provocative conversation, share moments of valued intimacy and vow to meet again six months later. For reasons both reasonable and heartbreaking, it takes nine years for that subsequent meeting to take place; the sequel, Before Sunset, garnered Linklater, Hawke and Delpy an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

"Each of the Before movies is a window onto a stage of life, revealing the possibilities and disappointments of one’s 20s, 30s and 40s," said Dennis Lim, the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Director of Cinematheque Programming. "Taken together, they have become something much larger and altogether more amazing: an ongoing collective experiment in embodying the passage of time."

Since Before Midnight opened last summer (now a Golden Globe nominee for Delpy's performance), fans have been clamoring for a marathon screening; a small production such as this is not usually granted a run often reserved for blockbuster franchises. We have heard your pleas and invite you to experience all three films either in a single day or throughout the week. You can spend multiple days watching the relationship unfold or return on several nights to experience your favorite chapter again and again. Celine and Jesse fanactics will also remember that the two characters made a memorable cameo (together in bed) in Linklater’s 2001 rotoscoped feature, Waking Life. Yes, that film is going to be included as well, and true perfectionists should mark January 3 on their calendars because on that day the four films will be screened in order of release: Before Sunrise, Waking Life, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.

If you've been planning an epic Before marathon screening at home with friends, come on down to Film Society of Lincoln Center to experience the full scope on the big screen. Tickets go on sale Thursday, December 19, and if you see at least three of the films you can save with a Discount Package! This is sure to be an early (and perhaps top) highlight for cinephiles in the 2014 movigeoing season.

Film descriptions for Celine and Jesse Forever:

BEFORE SUNRISE (1995) 105 min
Director: Richard Linklater
Country: USA
“Think of this as time travel.” Twentysomething American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets twentysomething Parisian Celine (Julie Delpy) on a cross-Europe train. He convinces her to disembark in Vienna and kill time with him before his flight the next morning; over the next twelve hours, they walk, talk, look around and fall desperately, unexpectedly in love. Linklater’s third feature is many things: a sensitive portrait of youth, with all its deep fault lines, painful insecurities, deep-set arrogances and deeper-set longings; a curious, digressive city symphony; a rich meditation on the act of looking; a love story that, for all its idealized meet-cute trappings, stays rooted in a concrete language of gestures, glances, vocal inflections and shifts of weight; and, in the end, a devastating study of the passage of time. Seen in relation to the subsequent two films in the celebrated Jesse and Celine trilogy, BEFORE SUNRISE takes on new, still sadder resonances. Taken on its own, it’s simply one of the great movies—past, present, or future.
January 3 at 2:45PM
January 4 at 9:15PM
January 5 at 6:30PM
January 6 at 2:15PM and 6:30PM
January 8 at 3:45PM and 8:15PM
January 9 at 3:45PM

BEFORE SUNSET (2004) 80 min
Director: Richard Linklater
Country: USA
BEFORE SUNSET picks up nine years after BEFORE SUNRISE’s open-ended finale. The immediate question—did Jesse and Celine reunite in Vienna six months later, as planned?—soon gets eclipsed by other, knottier ones: questions of commitment, fidelity, responsibility, and the great subject of Linklater’s trilogy, time. The setting has been re-located from Vienna to Paris, and the time frame narrowed from twelve hours to two. Jesse and Celine themselves have changed: they’re less self-conscious and less self-satisfied, worried about the extent to which their lives are ossifying, nervous about settling into adulthood. But the most jarring change is in Delpy and Hawke, whose noticeably tauter, wearier faces seem to have registered all their characters’ setbacks and disappointments. BEFORE SUNSET is packed with moments of heartbreaking emotional clarity—a series of initial flashbacks; a painful ferry-boat ride; a taxi meltdown—and ends, like its predecessor, with a gesture that works as both a tease and a consummation. (With some help from Nina Simone.)
January 3 at 7:10PM
January 4 at 5:10PM
January 5 at 2:30PM
January 6 at 4:30PM and 8:45PM
January 7 at 3:00PM and 7:00PM
January 9 at 6:10PM

BEFORE MIDNIGHT (2013) 109 min
Director: Richard Linklater
Country: USA
The third installment in the Celine and Jesse trilogy is a frank look at the pitfalls of long-term romantic commitment, a very loose retelling of Rossellini’s VOYAGE TO ITALY (with a dash of CONTEMPT), and a meditation on the continuity (or lack thereof) of identity: how much can two people change before they break completely with their past selves? BEFORE MIDNIGHT finds Jesse and Celine at the tail end of a summer in Greece, and the new location brings with it a shift in perspective. In one long passage, the pair contribute to a dinner party turned modern-day Greek symposium in which they’re placed in a chronological lineup of couples young and old. From then on, it’s their show: we see them reminisce, crack jokes, pick at each other’s sore spots, engage in some ungainly foreplay (with little of the previous films’ chaste discretion), and finally erupt into full-scale conflict. The result is a miracle of a movie, equally wistful and unsentimental, blunt and tender, allusive and plainspoken. BEFORE MIDNIGHT ends on a touching grace note that brings the series satisfyingly full circle.
January 3 at 9:00PM
January 4 at 7:00PM
January 5 at 4:15PM
January 7 at 4:45PM and 8:45PM
January 8 at 1:30PM and 6:00PM
January 9 at 8:00PM

WAKING LIFE (2001) 99 min
Director: Richard Linklater
Country: USA
Celine and Jesse make a brief cameo in Linklater’s visually stunning, mind-bending, wildly discursive exercise in film-as-dream. WAKING LIFE was the first feature film to be entirely rotoscoped: made up of live-action footage animated over frame-by-frame. A puzzled Wiley Wiggins wanders through a shifting dreamworld populated by friends, lovers and strangers, all holding forth on topics ranging from the problem of other minds to the nature of reality and the existence of God. One of Linklater’s most deliriously untapped movies, WAKING LIFE takes place in a world where, in one character’s words, it “seems like everyone’s sleepwalking through their waking state—or wake-walking through their dreams.”
January 3 at 5:00PM
January 4 at 3:00PM
January 5 at 8:45PM
January 9 at 1:30PM

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